Pedestrianise or open up Leighton Buzzard high street again - who will get a say and when?

Details of timetable 'will be coming shortly'
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No decision has been reached about the future of Leighton Buzzard High Street in advance of a public consultation process, a meeting heard.

Pressure is mounting in the town to have the area completely pedestrianised or reinstated, following a trial to lure back shoppers after pandemic lockdowns.

Central Bedfordshire Council is due to review the current experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) in the town centre and make recommendations for the future of the High Street from next March.

Leighton Buzzard Market returned when the High Street was pedestrianised in June 2020Leighton Buzzard Market returned when the High Street was pedestrianised in June 2020
Leighton Buzzard Market returned when the High Street was pedestrianised in June 2020

It will decide whether the restrictions should be made permanent or be withdrawn, after consulting residents, businesses and other interested groups.

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling asked for an update during open questions at a full council meeting, saying: "In view of the ongoing local debate about the future traffic and pedestrian arrangements for the High Street in Leighton Buzzard, will the portfolio holder say exactly what consultation is planned, who can contribute and what's the planned timetable?

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"In light of comments made by a CBC officer at a recent town council meeting, is it the case an in-house decision has been made already as we were led to believe?

"We want it confirmed this isn't the case and that the consultation will be real, and the outcome will reflect the wishes of the majority of residents and users of the High Street."

Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham said he would ask executive member for community services councillor Ian Dalgarno to give a more detailed written reply.

In councillor Dalgarno's absence, councillor Wenham explained he was lacking details of the consultation or the exact timetable, other than "it will be coming shortly".

But he reassured councillor Snelling: "Certainly no decisions have been made. That would be entirely inappropriate, not only a legal problem but against governing principles.

"In terms of the extent of the consultation, again I shall ask councillor Dalgarno to indicate that to you."

Councillor Snelling added: "It's come to our notice in the town that the consultation, we're told, isn't going to be held until after the expiry of the temporary traffic regulations the government allowed us to put in place.

"The town council has been asked to contribute towards that consultation, which I believe it's going to reject.

"One wonders why this consultation isn't already in place, so that by March next year a decision has been made, rather than wait until after that date."

Councillor Wenham replied: "I'll ask councillor Dalgarno to write to you with a detailed response and it's entirely the decision of the town council what it wishes to do, whether it chooses to respond or participate.

"Clearly the more views we receive from residents and other stakeholders the more helpful that will be for forming the outcome going forward."